Wes Welker is leaving the Patriots.
After six seasons and 672 receptions in New England, Welker has agreed to a two-year deal with the Broncos, according to two league sources.
The Patriots made a late run at retaining Welker, but it likely was too late after their initial contract offer was well below what the receiver was expecting.
Welker’s deal with the Broncos is two years at $12 million and could go to $14 million. The Patriots’ initial offer to Welker — after both sides said all the right things about a future together — was for two years and $10 million.
It is not known what the Patriots’ final offer was. They very well could have matched the offer, but by then Welker could have felt so insulted by a perceived lack of respect that he was walking out the door in any event.
As an added bonus: Welker, Peyton Manning and the Broncos play at Gillette Stadium against the Patriots this season.
The Broncos, who tied for the league’s best record at 13-3 before losing to the Ravens in the playoffs, now have Welker in the middle with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker on the outside.
At this moment, the Patriots have Brandon Lloyd — who they would prefer to release — Matthew Slater (special teamer) and three unknowns, Andre Holmes, Kamar Aiken and Jeremy Ebert, at receiver.
As for where the Patriots go from here, expect them to aggressively pursue Rams receiver Danny Amendola, who is more athletically gifted than Welker but has trouble staying healthy.
The departure of Welker allows the Patriots to go with the offensive approach that they showed against the Cardinals in Week 2 last season: Lloyd or another boundary receiver (perhaps in the draft), Aaron Hernandez in the slot for Welker, Rob Gronkowski at receiver, and players in the ilk of Julian Edelman and Amendola on the other side at receiver.